604 KING STREET WEST, TORONTO, ONTARIO
No Italian restaurant of recent memory has come close to matching the culinary impact of this original Buca, named for the former boiler room it now occupies.
When it opened in 2009 salume was all the rage and Buca chef Rob Gentile swiftly became known as its finest local practitioner. His signature porcine portfolio spanned traditional prosciutto, culatello, lonza and lardo, and then he pushed on, to include cured legs of venison and bison, and bresaola made with horsemeat.
Pork, uncommon meats and offal remain this kitchen’s core passion (the menu never sheds its crispy pigs’ ear with fennel salt, lamb brain saltimbocca, duck egg bigoli with duck offal ragù, and pork blood pasta with nduja). But note, they also have a deft touch with fish and seafood, and produce a constantly evolving selection of crisp, light, thin-crusted Roman style pizzas, superior to any other offering in town. As with the rest of the menu, dolci successfully marry tradition and unexpected ingredients.
Leather-aproned servers are highly competent and know their menu and extensive wine list well. The restaurant is perpetually crowded and the noise level is high.